Telos 173 (Winter 2015): Gillian Rose

Telos 173 (Winter 2015) is now available for purchase in our store.

Gillian Rose (1947–1995) had an influence in excess of her literary output and treatment in secondary literature. Author of eight books, two articles, and four book reviews, she also had important, though perhaps hidden, effects on the UK academic scene through academic friendship, doctoral supervision, and interdisciplinary work. She inspired many students and colleagues, even where she does not appear in bibliographies or citations. She made major contributions to introducing the Frankfurt School to the UK; aided the Hegel renaissance in English-language scholarship; and was an early critic of post-structuralism and political theology. Several of the papers gathered here were first given at a conference at Durham University on January 9, 2015, to mark the twentieth year since Rose’s death. That conference and this special issue of Telos are premised on the view that Rose’s work still has much philosophical insight and inspiration to offer. The authors of these papers were students, colleagues, and/or friends of Rose, or studied her work as part of their doctoral research. The diversity of their fields reflects some of the range and interdisciplinarity of Rose’s own work: Hegel, social theory, Marxism, politics, race, recognition theory, education, and theology. We hope that this issue provokes a renewed interest in what Rose can still offer us today.

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Gramsci and the Politics of Literary Criticism

As an occasional feature on TELOSscope, we highlight a past Telos article whose critical insights continue to illuminate our thinking and challenge our assumptions. Today, Matt Applegate looks at Arshi Pipa’s “Gramsci as a (Non) Literary Critic” from Telos 57 (Fall 1983).

Arshi Pipa’s “Gramsci as a (Non) Literary Critic” is more than a short biography and description of Antonio Gramsci’s inquiries into literary criticism. It also provokes the reader to meditate on the political conditions of literary criticism as an intellectual practice. Gramsci is a controversial figure in the history of literary criticism for at least two reasons, according to Pipa. First, his political work remains more prominent than his literary criticism. When one thinks of Gramsci as a writer and historical figure, his literary criticism might not even register, given his political writing and influence. Second, Gramsci’s politics serve as the impetus for his intellectual projects, thus also providing potential grounds to dismiss or ignore his aesthetic analyses. To be sure, Gramsci is a controversial political figure. In 1921 Gramsci co-founded and led the Communist Party of Italy in opposition to fascism, and was later arrested by fascist police under Mussolini, ultimately dying in prison in 1937. Perhaps his most famous collection of writings, Prison Notebooks, was completed while he was incarcerated between 1926 and 1937. Yet, it is precisely Gramsci’s controversial style and political will that draw Pipa to his work and allow him to question literary criticism as an enduring intellectual practice.

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In Search of the Left’s Political Theory: Norberto Bobbio and Telos

As an occasional feature on TELOSscope, we highlight a past Telos article whose critical insights continue to illuminate our thinking and challenge our assumptions. Today, Robert Wyllie looks at Norberto Bobbio’s “Is There a Marxist Theory of the State?” from Telos 35 (Spring 1978).

Norberto Bobbio’s 1978 article “Is There a Marxist Theory of the State?” marks a turning point in the history of Telos. The “red decade” was coming to a close in the mid-1970s, and the New Left was falling into disarray. Hence, Bobbio writes an epitaph in this 1978 article, which makes the convincing case that the Left was never able to develop a political theory that included a positive concept of the political state. In the years following Bobbio’s article, the Telos group would begin to look elsewhere. As Paul Piccone and Gary Ulmen later explained, “Telos‘ initial interest in [Carl] Schmitt’s work was triggered in the 1980s by the realization, in the collapse of the New Left and under the influence of Norberto Bobbio’s criticism, that the Left in general and Marxism in particular had no political theory.”[1] Bobbio moved Telos away from “revolution, dialectic, commodity fetishism, liberation, alienation, and monopoly capitalism”[2] to Carl Schmitt, federalism, and populism.

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Why Lukács Still Matters

As an occasional feature on TELOSscope, we highlight a past Telos article whose critical insights continue to illuminate our thinking and challenge our assumptions. Today, Linas Jokubaitis looks at Paul Piccone’s “Lukács’s History and Class Consciousness Half a Century Later,” from Telos 4 (Fall 1969).

In 1969, when Paul Piccone wrote “Lukács’s History and Class Consciousness Half a Century Later,” almost fifty years had passed since the publication of Georg Lukács’s magnum opus. Piccone wrote this essay to mark that anniversary, and he argued that this work was an “underground classic.” Moreover, he asserted that this book was essential for any analysis of modern thought. According to Piccone, everyone attempting to understand and overcome the ideological crisis of Marxism would be wise to consult this book.

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Call for Papers: Karel Kosík and Dialectics of the Concrete

Karel Kosík and Dialectics of the Concrete Prague, June 4–6, 2014

A conference organised by the Department for the Study of Modern Czech Philosophy, Institute of Philosophy, Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic.

In 1963 Karel Kosík published his path-breaking book Dialectics of the Concrete. It made an impact on both Marxist and non-Marxist thinkers, in Czechoslovakia and throughout the world. In this work Kosík set for himself an ambitious task—to re-think the basic concepts of the Marxist philosophical tradition and to employ them in the analysis of social reality. In the course of his analysis he touched on a wide array of issues that are still relevant today, including the problem of mystification or the “pseudo-concrete,” the social role of art, the conception of reality as a concrete totality, the conception of the human being as an onto-formative being, the systematic connection between labour and temporality, the relationship between praxis and labour, and the explanatory power of the dialectical method.

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The True Meaning of Autonomy

As an occasional feature on TELOSscope, we highlight a past Telos article whose critical insights continue to illuminate our thinking and challenge our assumptions. Today, Yonathan Listik looks at Cornelius Castoriadis’s “Socialism and Autonomous Society,” from Telos 43 (Spring 1980).

Cornelius Castoriadis’s opening line in “Socialism and Autonomous Society”—”Henceforth, the terms ‘socialism’ and ‘communism’ will have to be abandoned”—clearly indicate that he is breaking with orthodox Marxism. But one must not rush to a conclusion since upon closer inspection the dissonances are not that relevant to Marx’s overall project as presented by Castoriadis. His criticism of notions such as the “dictatorship of the proletariat” could automatically place him outside the Marxist discourse. Nevertheless he manages to illustrate, even within orthodox Marxism, the minor position of canonical notions, compared to Marx’s essential project of an autonomous society: a society composed of free and sovereign people.

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